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Iowa Football Recruiting: Hawkeyes Turn to Class of 2019

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It’s time for the Hawkeyes to turn to the their attention to the class of 2019. What are the needs? Who’s already committed? Who are the top targets? We explore all those questions and more.

NCAA Football: Minnesota at Iowa
Kirk Ferentz and players touch the Kinnick Statue for luck. Will any of it rub off on the recruiting class of 2019?
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

The book is shut on the Iowa football recruiting class of 2018. While fans will need to wait a few years to know just how good the class is, it looks pretty good just a few weeks after the final signing day. As I mentioned in the postmortem report on the class, it’s the highest ranked group since 2011 and the 4th best since the Rivals era began. Pretty impressive.

But as good as the class of 2018 appears to be, the class of 2019 has the potential to be even better. With the staff turning their recruiting focus to the future, we look to do the same as we dive into the needs of this class, some of the early targets and a look at the calendar to see when we might expect some news.

The Needs

On paper, the class of 2019 should be a smaller one. The same thing was said about the class of 2018, which ended up with 22 commitments and no fewer than 20 walk-ons. I wouldn’t expect next year’s class to be quite as big, but even with only 11 senior scholarship players slated to graduate I would still count on Iowa signing around 20 players. The natural attrition that comes with division one football should get any program to at least 20 openings in any given year.

So, where will those scholarships be used? In short, everywhere. The 2019 class will likely have a good mix of players across every position group. Unlike in 2018, where no true TE was taken, I would expect at least one commitment from each position group in this year’s class.

A look at the depth chart and impending departures following this season, the most pressing needs appear to be along the defensive line. Not that there are any concerns with the group or the talent that’s been amassed there, which is impressive, but looking to the future there needs to be additional depth built. Following this year, there will only be three underclassmen between defensive tackle and end. Look for the staff to address that with 3-4 recruits there.

Another area of focus will be running back. Unlike the defensive line, the running back group is pretty young, but the health issues surrounding Toks Akinribade means there are only four scholarship backs locked in for the 2018 season (five if we count Samson Evans here - I think he‘ll start at RB, but there’s still debate about whether he ends up at WR). If we know one thing, it’s that Iowa can never have too many quality backs. Expect them to take at least a pair in this class.

Elsewhere, we know the staff likes to take a QB in every class. That won’t change with this one, though I could see a scenario where they take two if they find themselves with space available. Similar approach along the offensive line, just a bigger group. I’d look for 3-4 commits at the position.

With no tight end in last year’s group, I think it’s a decent bet Iowa tried to grab more than one this year. The position has been a strength for the Hawkeyes and they have a lot to sell. It’s not out of the question that Noah Fant could leave early if he has another year with production like last year. I think the staff probably tries to find someone with as much athleticism as possible to try filling the void that will eventually be left by Fant.

The other position groups look like we should expect sort of a typical year. With an eye to the future and building depth, I’d look for the Hawkeyes to take three commits each at WR, LB and DB.

Here’s how that looks graphically. This will be updated periodically as Iowa adds commitments.

Current Commits

Speaking of adding commitments, Iowa already has three in this class. They had four at one point, but lost Larry Tracy (cousin of 2018 WR commit Tyrone Tracy) to de-commitment a week before signing day. I think it’s still entirely possible Tracy ends up at Iowa. He comes from a great, close-knit family that’s already done their homework on the Hawkeyes. The relationship with his cousin and recruiting coordinator Kelvin Bell, who has done a tremendous job building a pipeline from Indiana to Iowa, may be enough to bring him back into the fold.

So who remains in the class? Some good ones. As you might expect, the early commits have come from local products and guys at positions Iowa has a reputation for developing into NFL players.

The first to commit was Holstein native Ezra Miller. He’s a massive offensive tackle prospect coming in at 6’6” and 310 lbs as a junior. Rivals lists him as a 3-star, 247 Sports has him as a 4-star. His offer list doesn’t look terribly impressive with Iowa State the only other reported offer, but it’s incredibly deceiving. Miller reportedly has had interest from several blue blood programs, but has shut the door on them almost immediately as he is all in on being a Hawkeye. Love it.

The other two commits in the class joined on the same day last June. Like Miller, Tyler Endres is an Iowa-born offensive lineman. He hails from Norwalk and he is also a massive offensive tackle at 6’6” and 280 as a junior. In addition to the scholarship from Iowa, Endres has offers from Iowa State, Minnesota and Wisconsin. And like Miller, Endres is a 3-star per Rivals and a 4-star per 247 Sports. These two bookend tackles is a hell of a way to start a recruiting class.

And that brings us to the other current commitment in 2019, Orion, Illinois tight end Logan Lee. He brings great size at 6’5” and 225 lbs as a junior, but he also has good athleticism at that size and very good hands. Other programs have noticed. Despite being a 3-star recruit according to both Rivals and 247 Sports, Lee holds offers from Michigan, Michigan State, Ole Miss, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Northwestern, Missouri and Illinois. He’s a very good get, especially early in the cycle at a position of need.

Top Targets

Now that we know the top needs for the class and who is already in the fold, let’s take a look at who the top candidates might be to fill the remaining voids. It’s still very early in the process and the staff is still busy extending offers and working on scheduling visits. Because we’re still at that point where they’re getting names into the top of the funnel and working them through the process to narrow it down to top targets, I’m not going to go terribly in depth on individual names (that will likely come as we hit the summer months and we can spend the time to break down each position group on its own). Instead, I’m listing some of the names at each position who have offers and appear to have some mutual interest. We’ll also look at the top priority at each position, as defined by a high level recruit who is a realistic possibility and shown mutual interest.

We’ll start with the position that gets the most attention: quarterback. As mentioned previously, the staff typically likes to take one QB in each class and that’s what we should expect this year. However, there are currently only three scholarship QBs on the roster so it’s not out of the question the staff would take two in this class.

Priority number one is, and has been for some time, locking up Council Bluffs-native Max Duggan. Here’s the quick and dirty on Duggan.

Max Duggan

Pos: QB
Hometown: Council Bluffs, Iowa (Lewis Central)
Ht: 6’2”
Wt: 180
Stars: 247 Sports - 4/Rivals - 4
Offers: Georgia, Ohio State, Penn State, TCU, Oregon, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Tennessee, Nebraska, Others

Similar to the quarterback spot, the staff identified a top target who happened to be relatively local at running back early in the process and held off on making additional offers for quite some time. In this case, it’s 4-star Quincy, Illinois back Jirehl Brock.

Brock took a number of visits to Iowa City with some of the 2018 commitments and was rumored to be close to committing himself. He then pumped the brakes a bit and his recruitment continued to pick up. I believe Iowa will be in this one until the end, but they’ve also begun to hedge their bets by making a number of additional offers of late.

Jirehl Brock

Pos: RB
Hometown: Quincy, Illinois (Quincy)
Ht: 6’0”
Wt: 200
Stars: 247 Sports - 4/Rivals - 4
Offers: Michigan State, Minnesota, Purdue, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa State, Missouri, Cincinnati

Unlike the QB spot, I’d expect the Hawkeyes to take more than one commit at the RB spot. Look for additional offers to go out at the position and visits to be lined up this spring.

At wide receiver, there will certainly be more than one commit in the class. More than likely there will be three given the depth chart and the need for added playmaking ability at the position.

The top option in that regard is Indianapolis native David Bell. He’s a teammate of 2018 commit Julius Brents, he’s a hell of an athlete and he’s been on campus already.

David Bell

Pos: WR
Hometown: Indianapolis, Indiana (Warren Central)
Ht: 6’2”
Wt: 180
Stars: 247 Sports - 4/Rivals - 4
Offers: Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Louisville, Purdue, Indiana, Northwestern, Others

It’s still early and as mentioned above, we should expect 2-3 commits at the WR position. Bell would be an incredible get and the Indianapolis connection may help, but he’ll be tough to compete for with the stiff competition already in on him. A few other names to watch early are Eli Pancol of Pendleton, Indiana and Kansas City native Desmond Hutson. Both are a bit bigger than Bell at 6’4” and have already been on campus.

At tight end, the lack of a signee in last year’s group could mean the Hawkeyes take more than one this year. As previously mentioned, Logan Lee is already in the fold. The top target at this point (based on the above criteria) looks to be Omaha native Chris Hickman, who has a big body and a ton of athleticism. Think Noah Fant.

Chris Hickman

Pos: TE
Hometown: Omaha, Nebraska (Burke)
Ht: 6’6”
Wt: 195
Stars: 247 Sports - 4/Rivals - 3
Offers: Ole Miss, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Indiana, Purdue, Iowa State, Kansas State, Others

Joel DeCoursey of Zionsville, Indiana is another name to watch at tight end. He doesn’t have quite the athleticism of Hickman and is a newer offer, but he could certainly be in the mix.

Along the offensive line, the Hawkeyes are in really good shape with the pair of commitments they already have. They’ll likely look to add 1-2 more in the class and they have some really good options. The most likely to commit is local product Noah Fenske of New Hampton. Beyond the state’s borders, Will Putnam is a highly recruited guard who moved from Illinois to Florida and saw offers come from nearly the entire SEC and ACC. He was high on Iowa early and still has a relationship.

Justin Britt is another name to monitor. He’s a teammate of WR target David Bell and 207 commit Julius Brents. He’s a good-sized tackle prospect with an impressive offer list. That Indiana pipeline could be overflowing by the end of 2019.

Speaking of pipelines, the one established to Crystal Lake, Illinois is proving quite fruitful. The class of 2018 included a pair of commits from Prairie Ridge High School in Crystal Lake in Samson Evans and Jeff Jenkins. The Top target on the OL for 2018 also hails from the town, but attends Crystal Lake South.

Trevor Keegan is a big offensive tackle prospect, much like current commit Ezra Miller. He measures in at 6’6” and 310 pounds and his offer list is about as big as him.

Trevor Keegan

Pos: OT
Hometown: Crystal Lake, Illinois (Crystal Lake South)
Ht: 6’6”
Wt: 310
Stars: 247 Sports - 4/Rivals - 4
Offers: Georgia, Oklahoma, Penn State, Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Oregon, Nebraska, Duke, Iowa State, Others

Switching to the defensive side of the ball, the defensive line is sure to be an area of focus. At this point, the top target appears to be another local product (now seems like as good a time as any to point out how much talent the state of Iowa has produced over the last couple years - it’s pretty incredible) Mosai Newsom of Waverly.

Newsom is a big defensive end with good athleticism. His recruitment has been picking up with Minnesota in the mix and interest from a number of other schools, such as Iowa State, Wisconsin and Notre Dame.

Mosai Newsom

Pos: DE
Hometown: Waverly, Iowa (Waverly - Shell Rock)
Ht: 6’5”
Wt: 245
Stars: 247 Sports - 3/Rivals - 3
Offers: Minnesota, South Dakota

At linebacker, the staff has gotten in early on some really good options. Like on the offensive line, it helps having very good in-state talent to choose from. The Hawkeyes have that with Council Bluffs (Thomas Jefferson) product Cameron Baker, who is infamous for a ridiculous touchdown run last season, as well as Cedar Falls native Jack Campbell. Both would be very solid gets at the position and seem like good bets to join the class.

There’s also Jack Kiser of Royal Center, Indiana, who the Hawkeyes have been in on for some time. But I think the top target with this group is another Omaha Burke prospect. This time it’s Nick Henrich, who is of course a teammate of the aforementioned TE Chris Hickman.

Like so many others, the Hawkeye staff was in on Henrich early and have watched his recruitment explode.The competition will be incredibly stiff, but I think Iowa has a good shot at sticking in this one until the end.

Nick Henrich

Pos: LB
Hometown: Omaha, Nebraska (Burke)
Ht: 6’3”
Wt: 210
Stars: 247 Sports - 4/Rivals - 3
Offers: Florida, Texas A&M, Penn State, Notre Dame, Nebraska, Purdue, Duke, Iowa State, Kansas State, Kentucky, Others

Finally, that leaves us with the defensive backs. This is a group that saw a huge influx of talent int he class of 2018 as Phil Parker continues to sell his ability to put guys in the NFL. The staff is looking to ride that momentum in the class of 2019 by targeting some big name guys from all across the country.

While they’re casting a wide net, I think the names to really keep an eye on are likely more local. Sebastian Castro of Oak Lawn, Illinois is a big safety who could be in the mix. Derrick Miller is a corner from the St. Louis area to follow.

But the top target is a name we’ve already covered: Larry Tracy. He’s a talented corner the staff has liked for a long time. There’s already a relationship with the family so the risk of a poor fit is low. Add to that the efforts to build more connections in Indiana and with the Tracy family in particular (Larry isn’t the last Tracy who will be playing division one football in the near future) and I think he’s the top target in the group as of now.

Larry Tracy

Pos: CB
Hometown: Indianapolis, Indiana (Decatur Central)
Ht: 5’11”
Wt: 210
Stars: 247 Sports - 3/Rivals - 3
Offers: Minnesota, Indiana, Purdue, Cincinnati, Syracuse, Others

Timeline

So, those are the needs and the targets, where do we go from here? In short, on the trail. A lot. The staff will be all over the map continuing to evaluate players, extend offers and work to get them on campus for visits.

In fact, they’ve already been doing that. They hosted their first junior day visit a week ago. More than a dozen of players were on campus for the event, which allowed the players to see the facilities and meet one on one with the coaching staff. Most of the players invited had offers before they arrived. Those that didn’t received them on campus.

The staff is hosting another junior day event next weekend. Like this past weekend, the visitor list for that event is expected to be almost exclusively prospects with offers or those who will receive one once they arrive.A number of the players listed as top targets are reportedly expected to attend.

The events are a great way for prospects to get time with the staff and see the campus, but they’re also a great way for the staff to see how interested prospects might be. These are unofficial visits, meaning the player is responsible for covering the cost of transportation and a place to stay. That typically translates to recruits from the surrounding states making the trip with visitors from further away less likely to foot the bill for a plane ticket.

An added wrinkle for the class of 2019 will be the shortened recruiting calendar. In years past, players couldn’t take official visits (those paid for by the school) until the start of their senior year. That meant for players who wanted to visit Iowa before football season they were doing so on their own dime.

With the advent of the early signing period in December, prospects will now be allowed to take official visits beginning in April of their junior year. This presents a major opportunity for the Hawkeyes to get players from further away onto campus before the staff is focuses on trying to win games on Saturday. It also opens the door to where players can visit around Iowa City with coaches. It’s a critical step in expanding Iowa’s recruiting footprint.

Expect the staff to make a push for prospects serious about considering the Hawkeyes to get on campus this spring and summer while the coaches can devote more time and attention to the visitors.

Stay tuned here for updates on who those visitors might be and updates on all player commitments and changes to the top targets.